Search for injured black bear in Juneau County draws national attention

Volunteers from a non-profit organization in North Carolina are now joining the effort to find and save a bear with a trap on its paw
The search for an injured black bear in Juneau County is intensifying.
Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 10:46 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 2, 2022 at 6:43 PM CDT
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NEW LISBON, Wis. (WMTV) - The search for an injured black bear in Juneau County is intensifying. Volunteers from the organization Help Asheville Bears or HAB arrived in New Lisbon this week to find the bear and help remove a small game trap from its right front paw. NBC15 first reported on the bear last week when a viewer sent us a video of the bear hobbling around in their backyard.

“We had seen the same thing happen in North Carolina last year -- almost a year ago to date -- and the bear ended up losing its paw after a few weeks,” said Alex Williams, a volunteer with HAB. “So, we knew how important it was to find the bear quickly before it lost its paw.”

Williams and his brother Jody arrived at the home in New Lisbon Wednesday morning where the bear spotted searching for food and going after bird feeders. In the video, you can see the bear has a trap on its paw.

A still frame from the video of the bear. You can see the trap stuck on it's front right paw.
A still frame from the video of the bear. You can see the trap stuck on it's front right paw.(Tim Elliott)

“Our concern has always been from the beginning to get help for the bear,” said Ian Judd, the man who filmed the bear. “Seeing the bear with the trap on is heartbreaking.”

The type of trap the bear stepped on is called a conibear trap. Despite its name, the trap is not designed to catch bears. Instead, it’s designed to catch small animals like a raccoon. Trapping bears is illegal in Wisconsin. However, the type of trap seen in the video is legal.

“Currently in Wisconsin, we don’t have any trapping season open this time of year. However, state law does allow landowners to trap and remove nuisance animals that are on their land, year-round,” said Kris Johansen with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Alex Williams pours a bottle of maple syrup on a pile of doughnuts, pies, and other sweet...
Alex Williams pours a bottle of maple syrup on a pile of doughnuts, pies, and other sweet treats in an attempt to get the bear into the live trap set up by wildlife officials(Tim Elliott)

Johansen believes the bear inadvertently stepped on the trap, but says “no one wants to see an animal that is in distress like that.”

The bear was filmed on Saturday, May 21. The next day, the USDA Wildlife Service put a live bear trap on Judd’s property is an attempt to catch the bear and safely tranquilize it. They would then remove the trap and then set the bear free.

As of Thursday, the bear still has not entered the live trap.

The Williams brothers spent Wednesday morning setting up 10 trail cameras around Judd’s seven-acre property to hopefully document the bear’s movement. They also dumped gallons of maple syrup, molasses, and other sugary sweets on the property in an attempt to entice the bear to come back to the property and enter the live bear trap.

This is one of several trail cameras set up on the Judd's property to try to document the...
This is one of several trail cameras set up on the Judd's property to try to document the bear's movement(Tim Elliott)

“The goal right now is to use baits and scents and attractants like these to get the bear closest to the barrel trap as we can,” said Williams.

Williams says HAB started two-and-a-half years ago in North Carolina to stop poachers in the area from trapping black bears. He believes trapping animals with these conibear traps – or really any spring-loaded trap-- is barbaric.

“So how does the trap know whether a bear or a raccoon steps in it? Maybe it’s your dog that accidently gets out of your yard or gets off the leash and wanders out of the yard,” he said. “We should all look at the traps and say, ‘does this really make sense in our modern times? Do we want animals being maimed and limping around at all times or is it time to put this old way of doing this down?”

In addition to helping bears, Williams says HAB’s goal is to “document their injuries and missing limbs to try to get this cruelty stopped,” Williams says if the trap is not removed in a reasonable amount of time, the bear will chew his own paw off to get free.

Judd says since his video has gotten out, the community has really banded together to find the bear.

“The outpouring of sympathy for the bear has been quite enormous. It just shows there are people out there that care, people are still concerned for animals.”

The Williams brothers are determined to help – and if nothing else – shine a spotlight on what happens when an animal gets trapped.

“Even if we can’t save the limb and it’s chewing it off right now and it’s too late, we can’t stop until we document what happened to this bear from beginning to end. The story is too important,” said Williams.

The Williams brothers say there has been a sighting of a black bear in the area with a missing right front paw. It’s unclear if this is the same bear that was filmed in the Judd’s backyard. NBC15 is working to confirm with the Wisconsin DNR if this recent sighting is in fact the same bear.

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